Entertainer Rolf Harris sentenced to 5 years, 9 months for abusing girls

LONDON (CNN) -- Children's entertainer Rolf Harris was sentenced Friday to five years and nine months in prison for a string of indecent assaults against women and girls.

The 84-year-old was found guilty Monday in a London court of 12 charges of sexually abusing women and girls as young as 7 years old.

The offenses that Harris committed against four women took place as far back as 1970.

The Australian-born musician and artist, who painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for the British monarch's 80th birthday in 2006, had been charged under Operation Yewtree, which is investigating allegations of decades of abuse by public figures, including the late TV entertainer Jimmy Savile.

Dozens more women who said they had been abused by Harris, including several in Australia, alerted police during the trial, Britain's Press Association news agency said.

Sentencing Harris at Southwark Crown Court, the judge, Nigel Sweeney, said there were several aggravating factors.

"You took advantage of the trust placed in you, because of your celebrity status, to commit the offenses," he said.

"In every case the age gap between you and your victim was a very considerable one. You clearly got a thrill from committing the offenses whilst others were present or nearby. Whilst such others did not realize what you were doing, their presence added to the ordeal of your victims."

The abuse "had a significant adverse effect" on the victims, he said, while Harris has shown no remorse at all for his crimes.

Harris will likely serve half his sentence in prison before being released on probation.

Offenses committed 'in plain sight'

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Detective Mick Orchard told reporters: "Rolf Harris has habitually denied any wrongdoing, forcing his victims to recount their ordeal in public.

"He committed many offenses in plain sight of people as he thought his celebrity status placed him above the law. I want to thank the women who came forward for their bravery. I hope today's guilty verdict will give them closure and help them to begin to move on with their lives."

The Crown Prosecution Service's Jenny Hopkins said Harris had "used his status and position as a world famous children's entertainer to sexually assault young girls over a period spanning 18 years."

She added that "each victim, unknown to the others, described a similar pattern of behavior -- that of a man acting without fear of the consequences."

Harris was once one of Britain's best-loved children's entertainers. He had a string of hits in the 1960s, including "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport," "Jake the Peg" and "Two Little Boys." He had a decades-long television career at the BBC and received several honors, including the Order of the British Empire.

CNN's Brooke Bowman and Peter Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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